A visit to Turkey by Hamas’ top leader and his participation in a convention of the ruling Islamist party is the latest sign that Turkey, a member of NATO, is becoming the key sponsor and ally of a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization, according to a CNS News report.
Khaled Mashaal, the head of the terrorist organization Hamas, made a surprise appearance in Turkey last Friday at the ruling Justice and Development Party Party’s (AKP) annual general meeting on December 27. Prior to his address at the meeting, Mashaal met with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in order to solidify the burgeoning ties between his organization and his host country.
Having received an enthusiastic welcome at the Islamic party conference in the town of Konya, Mashaal endorsed Erdogan and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu by name and expressed his fervent hope that both Hamas and Turkey would “liberate Palestine and Jerusalem.”
Turkey’s Hurriyet daily reported that party supporters waving Turkish and Palestinian flags responded to Meshaal’s speech with shouts of “Allahu Akbar” and “Down with Israel,” according to CNS News.
The JPost reported that Mashaal also expressed hope that land the Palestinians want for a future state would be freed in the future, just as “in the past, Turkey has helped protect Jerusalem, al-Aksa and Palestine.”
Prime Minister Davutoglu said his country views the Palestinian plight “as its own cause” and “Palestine’s land as holy as Turkish land.” He added that Turkey stands behind Palestinians in their efforts to oppose what he calls Israeli attempts to “reduce the Islamic character” of Jerusalem.
At the same conference, according to a report on the Clarion Project web site, the AKP party unveiled a new campaign song in honor of Davutoglu, praising him as the grandson of the Ottomans.
The lyrics read “Who is the man? Who is the brave, the righteous and the honest one? Who? Who? Davutoğlu Ahmet Hoca, a wise man, a brave man.” They praise Davotuglu as being a strong leader and emphasize both his personal credentials and his connection to Turkey’s Ottoman history.
The lyrics continue: “The whole world knows him / He has no problem with history. / He is a true grandson of the Ottomans.”
This is not the first time that the Turkish leadership has praised their Ottoman heritage, according to the Clarion Project report. Davotuglu said in a speech at the beginning of November that “Al-Quds [Jerusalem] has been entrusted with us by [Muslim caliph] Hazrat Omar. Al-Quds has been entrusted to us by [Ottoman Sultan] Yavuz Sultan Selim and [Ottoman Sultan] Süleyman the Magnificent. Al-Quds has been entrusted to us by the last soldier of the Ottomans.”
The understanding that the AKP party is part of Turkey’s Ottoman heritage is bound up in the same Islamist romanticized notion of the Caliphate espoused by the Muslim Brotherhood.
At the same time as putting forward an Islamist platform Erdogan and the AKP are cracking down on civil liberties and dissent in Turkey. According to the Clarion Project report, last week a new law was proposed which would allow the prime minister and the communications minister the right to block access to or remove content from any website they declare as endangering “national security and public order.”
Yet despite introducing fresh legislation to curtail freedom of expression and rounding up and arresting many prominent opposition journalists, on December 26 Erdogan made statements that Turkey has the freest press in the world, the CP report added.
“Nowhere in the world is the press freer than it is in Turkey.” Erdogan said in a televised speech. “I’m very sure of myself when I say this.”
The CNS News report also indicated that the Turkish campaign of support for the terrorist Hamas organization may be linked to the direction in which the political winds are blowing in the region.
“Although Turkey under the AKP has been a longstanding supporter of Hamas, it has generally been seen as a step behind Qatar, which has poured millions of dollars into the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and has provided a base for Meshaal and Hamas’ “political bureau” since early 2012.
Qatar’s strong backing for Hamas – and for the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) of which Hamas is an affiliate – caused a serious rift between the small Gulf state and Arab nations opposed to the Brotherhood, primarily Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.”
On Monday, Dec 29, State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said he did not have “any comment to offer” about the high-level Turkey-Hamas contacts, according to the CNS report.
According to the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Turkey is also now sheltering an arguably even more dangerous Hamas terrorist, Amad al-Alami, a key link between the group and Iran. Along with Meshaal and four other senior Hamas leaders, al-Alami has been listed as a specially-designated global terrorist by the U.S. Treasury Department for more than a decade, as was reported by CNS News.
Late last month Israel lodged a complaint with NATO over Turkey’s willingness to allow senior Hamas terrorists to live and operate freely there. It urged the transatlantic alliance to take steps against its member for allegedly facilitating terror attacks in the Palestinian Authority-administered territories.
“It’s illogical for a NATO member to host a terrorist organization that trains and plans terror attacks on its soil,” read the statement. Turkish officials denied the claims.
Israel’s complaint specifically cited the presence in Istanbul of Saleh al-Arouri, head of Hamas’ military wing in the West Bank, who has lived in Turkey for several years and claimed responsibility on Hamas’ behalf last summer for the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers.
Since the war on Hamas terrorists in Gaza this past summer, some US legislators have been raising the volume on their criticism of both Turkey and Qatar over their working relationship with Hamas.
CNS News reported that in a bipartisan letter this month, 24 members of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittees dealing with the Middle East and terrorism urged the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, David Cohen, to “use every tool available to designate all individuals, institutions, entities, charities, front companies, banks, and government officials who clearly violate U.S. laws by assisting Hamas and its proxies.”
The signatories noted that Iran has traditionally been Hamas’ chief sponsor, but that “others in the region have stepped up to provide support,” citing Qatar and Turkey specifically, according to CNS.
“Any entity or nation that continues to back this U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization and provide it material and financial support should be sanctioned,” they wrote.
In a speech last March, Cohen said that Qatar “has for many years openly financed Hamas, a group that continues to undermine regional stability.”
He also said fundraisers in Qatar were collecting donations for extremists in Syria, including ISIS and the al-Qaeda affiliate, al-Nusra.